Fate of college football hangs in the balance as players plead to play this season

Fate of college football hangs in the balance as players plead to play this season
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence dives for a touchdown against Florida State on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (Tim Huebell/SIDELINE CAROLINA) (Source: Sideline Carolina)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Monday, major college football conferences continued work to determine the fate of the football season.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been vocal about wanting to play. President Trump retweeted one of Lawrence’s tweets, adding that “student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be canceled.”

If players in the SEC or ACC had the final vote, we might see football this fall in both leagues. Lawrence is adamant about playing. In one of a series of tweets Sunday, Lawrence said, “People are at just as much if not more [at] risk if we don’t play. Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely, and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

ACC Network host and reporter Kelsey Riggs applauds Lawrence and others like him for sharing their voice on important issues.

“I do think it’s incredibly powerful,” mentioned Riggs. “It’s really cool, especially for someone who is a fan of Trevor Lawrence in the ACC, to see him shift from just a football player to someone trying to do more.”

As players in Columbia, Clemson, and across the nation plead to play, the question is, will they?

“People think the worst thing that can happen is you don’t have football games,” said Tigernet senior writer David Hood. “The worst thing that can happen is a player catches COVID and dies.”

Hood, who has covered Clemson football for Tigernet for 12 years, knows all too well how a shutdown will impact the town of Clemson.

“This town really relies on seven home games a year,” added Hood. “There’s a lot of places that will have to shutter their doors.”

Economics aside, Hood also pointed to the wide-ranging health impacts related to contracting the virus. Clemson star defensive lineman Xavier Thomas was infected. He has breathing issues and remains unable to play.

“I think the players can look at him and see, even though this is a guy in shape and healthy, he’s dealing with this,” said Hood. “They get to see it first hand a little bit.”

In Gamecock Country, Post & Courier sportswriter David Cloninger senses desire from coaches and players to compete. Quarterback Ryan Hiliniski, like many others, tweeted We Want to Play.

“I know they all want to play,” said Cloninger. “That’s why they are here. That’s why there have been very few opt-outs. That’s why everyone is saying we believe in the system, and it can work.”

Cloninger says it all comes down to making sure the players are safe and fully understand the risks.

“Unless you have everybody come to an agreement that says, we are going to play and we will be able to help you, this thing can last far after you’re in school,” said Cloninger. “We need to make sure you understand that. If they all can all find middle ground everyone agrees on, then yes, the SEC will say [to other conferences], ‘You don’t want to play. That’s your business, but we are going to play.”

However, he believes the risk of illness to players and coaches might prevent the SEC from suiting up next month.

“All it takes is one kid who gets sick, who has a lasting condition, and the school is going to be held liable,” added Cloninger. “And these other kids say maybe I shouldn’t be doing it.”

Riggs says how the ACC proceeds will be anyone’s guess.

“Every moment changes,” said Riggs. “Even when you have a decision that’s the right one, in two hours from now, it could be the wrong one.”

The question of school liability and health coverage is a question many are asking.

“It’s one of the text I got this morning from somebody at Clemson,” said Hood. “Is the school going to be able to financially cover some kind of insurance on long term care if a player gets COVID, and winds up with heart problems afterward?”

These will be difficult roads to navigate for schools and conferences as they look for a path to play this fall.

Last week, the Mid-American Conference became the first top-tier league to cancel its fall season. It appears the Big Ten will opt to do the same, with reports pointing to the PAC-12 also packing up football for the fall.

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